WHO Appoints Okonjo-Iweala as COVID-19 Special Envoy

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By Obinna Chima

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has named Nigeria’s two-term former Minister of Finance and former Managing Director (Operations) of the World Bank, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as a Special Envoy for its newly inaugurated Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.

WHO’s Director-General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, disclosed this during the launch of the ACT Accelerator, through an online conference that took place in Geneva.

Okonjo-Iweala, who is the Board Chairperson of GAVI Alliance, is to serve together with British Business Executive, Andrew Witty, in the same capacity. They are expected to mobilise international commitment to the initiative.

The initiative is an international collaboration aimed at accelerating the development, production, and equitable distribution of COVID-18 drugs, tests kits, and vaccines around the world.

Ghebreyesus explained: “The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global crisis that has been met with an unprecedented global response. Research and development have played a central role.

“Since January, WHO has been working with thousands of researchers all over the world to accelerate and track vaccine development – from developing animal models to clinical trial designs, and everything in between. We’ve also developed diagnostics that are being used all over the world. And we’re coordinating a global trial on the safety and efficacy of four therapeutics against COVID-19.

“The world needs these tools, and it needs them fast. Past experience has taught us that even when tools are available, they have not been equally available to all.  We cannot allow that to happen.  Today, WHO is proud to be uniting with many partners to launch the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, or the ACT Accelerator. This is a landmark collaboration to accelerate the development, production and equitable distribution of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics for COVID-19.”